Winston Churchill's questionable commitment to paying his bills was embedded in the history of Bengaluru after his noteworthy visit to the Bangalore United Services Club in the 1800s. This debt was amply repaid by Prince Charles when he visited the place, by which time the BUS club was known to Bengaluru society as the Bangalore Club.
This year, they turn 150 with much ceremony, as is their custom and continue to be bearers of the city's history. Much has changed, of course and the club's architecture is now a fusion of the historic and the contemporary with as elite a membership as ever.
Formerly known as the Bangalore United Services Club, it was formed exclusively for British officers in 1868. The building that became the club house had been constructed in the 1850s. Until then, the club was restricted to the British and it was only after Independence that Indian army men slowly began to use the premises.
"We're always working to balance the old and the new," says Mr Girish Punja, President of the Bangalore Club, who walked a battery of media personnel through the property on Tuesday afternoon. The club's military history still has prominent display, with awards and weapons on display at the Club House. Animal skins and horns pay tribute to the glorious hunting days.
The Burma Bell stands between the Club House and the annexe, another proud piece of history. The stone plaque beside it tells the story of Brigadier Hill, who sold his Polo court and donated the money to the club. The Bell itself is from Burma, where it was struck down by lightning in a temple. "The priests took it to be a bad omen and left it on the streets. Fortunately, it made its way to the club thanks to Brigadier Hill, who brought it here from Madras." The vineyards in the lawns alongside are 150 years old – this chunk was preserved and re-installed after the walkway was built.
Of course, modernity had to be acknowledged and Bangalore Club installed what is now one of the city's oldest swimming pools. The Billiards Room, Gym, squash and tennis courts give members the amenities they need, the library contains 20,000 books and periodicals from around the world.
That's not all. As Bengaluru struggles with water shortages, sewage problems and encroached lake beds, the Club is the model of sustainability. Their sewage treatment plants see to most of their landscaping needs, leaving so much water in excess that the Club administration has considered sharing it with neighbouring buildings. "It has a capacity of 60,000 litres," says Mr Punja.
"Neighbours have asked us to share this water with them but our gardeners say it can be used to convert concrete surfaces in the club house into lawns. The gardens are a prized possession and are declared winners every year by the Lalbagh Horticultural Society.
The 150-year anniversary will be marked by celebrations that continue through 2018.
Note from Kannada.Club :
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